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Three-year project to create new plastic-free poppy pays off, thanks to automation

13 November 2023

The Royal British Legion's new sustainable poppy has been brought to life through Rockwell Automation’s automation technology.

Rockwell Automation has announced that its automation technology sits at the heart of new machines that assemble the Royal British Legion’s new plastic-free poppy. 

Designed and built by Rockwell Automation Gold OEM partner Sewtec Automation, the machines are being used to assemble the new paper poppies at two UK sites, the Royal British Legion in Aylesford, Kent, and Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Royal British Legion has been developing the plastic-free poppy for the past three years, in collaboration with specialist partners, as it works to reduce its use of single-use plastic and be economical, sustainable, and less impactful to the environment. 

The poppy has been created from bespoke red and green paper produced from a blend of renewable fibres from responsible sources, 50 percent of which come from the offcuts created during the production of paper coffee cups.

“We are extremely proud to be involved in this project,” explains Phil Hadfield, UK Managing Director of Rockwell Automation

“The new machines underwent a development process and subsequent design evolution based on highly effective teamwork and interactions that were not unlike those of many of our other industrial customers.”

“The original paper poppy design had to be fine-tuned to cater for the capabilities of automated assembly machines,” explains Mark Atkins, Director of Business Support at Sewtec. 

“We then developed a proof-of-concept test rig that could manipulate, assemble, and emboss the poppies at the desired rate of 120 per minute. This then evolved into the full machine, which at full speed, delivers an OEE of 99.9 percent. There is very little waste.”

Director of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, Andy Taylor-Whyte said: “We want to encourage as many people as possible to get a poppy this year and show their gratitude and support to those in the Armed Forces whose service and sacrifice should never be forgotten.

“We’re so proud that this year, we have our new plastic-free poppy too, so that the public can wear this poignant symbol of Remembrance, with less impact on the environment. 

Learn more about the making of the poppy from this BBC Scotland video

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